Expose For Highlight or Shadows

Alan9940

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Once you have established your time based on the high values, what happens to the high values when increasing the filter grade to darken the low values.
I can only speak for the Ilford Multigrade filter set, but I've never had an instance where the base exposure (for high values) changed when moving to a different grade. I should be clear here that I don't use the extreme ends of the filter range so, perhaps, that's why I don't see any significant change. That said, I always keep all my test strips and test prints available in a water tray until I reach an acceptable work print. Once I have the work print, the base exposure, contrast grade, and development have pretty much been finalized. At this point, I move on to refining the work print working toward that elusive creature...the fine print.

I didn't mention in my first post, but after the initial test strip trials (I do 3 sec strips) many times I can't really determine if, say, the 4th or 5th strip is what I want so I make another "test strip" using a full size sheet of paper starting with four 3 sec exposures (total of 12 secs), then resetting the timer for 1 sec exposures, and continuing with strips up to 15 secs. At this point, I have a full sheet of test strips with exposures of 12, 13, 14, and 15 secs; 1 sec difference in exposure can result in a visible difference in your high print values. Occasionally, I even narrow things down to 1/2 sec exposures! But, I'm crazy!! :D

Ian G - I've always advocated that you should be kind to the mole in the darkroom when out working in the field! ;)
 

Ian-Barber

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Ian B, the easiest way to find out is to try it. It's quicker than posting here and much more educational. How can we know what you want your shadows to look like?
I agree that visualisation is a personal choice and cannot really be taught. On the other hand, its how to get from A to B that I am finding it hard to get to grips with at the moment, such as, I find the right dark values I like but then the high values have gone to dark and may be to intricate to dodge at my level, I tend to freeze not knowing how to trouble shoot it.
 

David M

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Ian, you've had more advice than a first-year BA photographystudent would get. You've seen a print made.
I suspect that we have spent more time trying to help than you have spent in the darkroom.
You don't need advice, you need to stick at it.
 

David M

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Ian, may I be a little more kind? My last post was after a hard day.
Almost all the answers you've had are telling you to make a test. I had no idea that there were so many ways to make test strips.
When you're not sure what to do, the answer is to do the most likely thing. If it's wrong, then that is one variable less to worry about and much more importantly, you have learned something. Now you can go on the the next thing and try that. Each time, you must make a new print or a new test-strip. Each time, whatever the result, you have moved a little closer to getting what you want.
So, if part of a print is too dark, there are only two possibilities. First and most obvious is to give less exposure and that will always work. This is probably the first thing to try and it's very easy and quick , a minute to adjust the timer and make the exposure and three or four minutes to process. (Quicker than typing a question.)
It may well be what you are looking for. If not, you can try altering the contrast. You will have to guess, as there is no way at all to know in advance what you will think when you see the result. You will get better at guessing and call it estimating, but only with constantly seeing the results in real life.
Every time you do this, you will learn something. In particular, you will learn much more from making mistakes than from getting it right. If you really want a sure-fire end-to-end perfectly-controlled problem-free decision-free process, you can use your iPhone.
Do you recall learning to drive? Did you need to know about castor angle and the exact composition of screen-wash? You had to do the gear-crunching and the bunny-hops until you got it right. There is no other way. Printing is the same.
If you make a mistake in the darkroom, you might lose one sheet of paper, worth say, 40p. You can't get a cup of coffee for that. A test strip might cost 10p. The coffee will soon be gone and forgotten, but the lesson you have taught yourself will stay with you for ever.
Long ago, I showed a few people how to print. With someone young the first lesson was to put their hand on a sheet of paper under the enlarger and let them switch it on. Into the dev tray and WOW! They understood the process immediately.
Then all I needed to do was talk them through making a print. The negative in here. The light shines down here. See how the size can be altered, see how it can be made sharp. How do we decide how long to give? Here's an easy way – we try it. For the first demonstration of a test strip I'd use a whole sheet of paper. Then explain that you can manage with a smaller piece, typically a quarter. To avoid preciousness, we'd tear the paper.
Then they could select a negative and print it themselves with me hovering, in case of questions. (– and to reassure me that they wouldn't break anything.)
Nobody produced a masterpiece, but nobody failed either. That's it. That's all you need to know. Negative up here, paper down there. Best of luck.
 
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Alan9940

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Ian, IMO your approach is not the best when trying to make a print. Take a look at the curves for film vs paper. Film starts at the toe on the lower left and progresses upward through the straight line to shoulder off on the top right. A paper curve is exactly opposite of that; toe at lower left going to shoulder at upper right. What does this tell you as far as exposure is concerned? It should tell you that negatives respond to light more on the shadow end--ergo, the famous expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights--and paper responds more on the high value end. Therefore, light will affect paper more on the high value end of the scale and less on the shadow end. So, does it make more sense to base your paper exposure on the high values? The high values will respond to minute differences in exposure while the shadows will respond to gross differences.

What does all this mean? If you determine a base print exposure on the high values, then use filter changes to affect contrast I think you'll get the a final results quicker. Watch the high values as you change filters. If you see an affect, adjust a little...it won't take much.
 

Alan Clark

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Alan, I have the feeling that you are using an enlarger with a cold light source. When I had one of these the highlights reacted to filter changes just as you describe they do for you. Highlight print time stayed constant across the grades. But with my enlargers with pearl bulbs (colour temp. 2700K) it's the mid-tone print time that stays constant across the grades. The highlight time - and the shadow time - vary from grade to grade.

Alan
 

David M

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We are omitting the most important thing about shadows and highlights. The eye responds much more to small changes in highlight density than to the same change in the shadows.
None of this is any help to Ian, who needs to forget these refinements and simply get on and produce some prints, any prints at all. Only when he has a couple of boxes of paper under his belt will he have the skills he needs.
So far, I think he's posted two actual darkroom prints. About ten minutes work. It's not enough.
 

Alan9940

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Thanks for that clarification, Alan. Yes, I use and have used cold light heads for nearly 40 years.
 

Alan9940

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David, I disagree that we're discussing refinements here. Not to speak for Ian, but I think he is trying to understand what's going on with his printing and lock down a basic approach. How one might arrive at a base print exposure and control contrast is not refinements. The trouble with asking about these sorts of things is that every photographer/printer will have a different way of working. Each is, of course, correct for them. IMO, Ian needs to settle on a basic approach--which lots of ideas have been presented throughout this thread--and, then, when he can consistently produce good work prints move on to all those refinements with which you speak.
 

Keith Haithwaite

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I was about to make a comment when I realised that my session had expired over an hour ago and that Ian had made another post in the interim however, may I beg your indulgence and make my comment herein.
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With all due respect to Ian he is coming to the wet darkroom later in life than most of us here and after a photographic career of some 15 years producing some of the most beautiful full digital and analogue/digital (hybrid) prints I have ever seen.

Having spent hours talking with Ian I quickly realised that one of his difficulties is grasping the quantum difference between his fine controls over an image in the digital world to the relatively crude world of analogue image manipulation – even though the terms and techniques are largely synonymous and also his exuberance in trying to run before he’s even got to his feet – as I might have mentioned to him once or twice.:p

We were all beginners at one time and have no doubt exasperated our mentors to the n’th degree but I for one have never been chastised for failing to grasp a point. One of the founding aims of this forum was to further the advancement of analogue photography, particularly in the larger formats, and also to make available the vast fund of knowledge of those who are willing to share without newcomers to the craft having to wade through the vast and often dubious world of the internet for basic information and to which the benefits of this approach in the forum can be seen in many threads and posts.

Participation in the thread is by choice and I’m sure all positive contributions are gratefully accepted whilst at the same time we have to appreciate that formulating a question whilst having (so far) only a fairly basic knowledge of the subject can be daunting and often the terminology inadvertently misleading, so if we are to respond, we might have to dig a little deeper to tease out the real nugget amidst the iron pyrites.
 

martin henson

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Very well put Keith, I might also might add that in my darkroom days (some 45 years) I had to learn by trial and error, from books and magazines, today with the internet and been able to ask what might sound like very trivial questions to experienced DR users (not to Ian), we have the internet to tap into these resources which is great and an easier way to speed up the learning process, thank you for all the positive input.

Looks like your getting there Ian
 

David M

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Alan, I think you put my point much better than me when you say: "IMO, Ian needs to settle on a basic approach..."
But it's very good to see him posting what looks like an excellent image. More please.
 

Ian Grant

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This is a print I made earlier today using some of the notes I have gathered from this thread

View attachment 1164
This is a print I made earlier today using some of the notes I have gathered from this thread

View attachment 1164

This may not be the best print you'll ever make from this negative, but rather than wasting time struggling for better get some more basic printing experience with other negatives. You need that basic experience on exposure and grade choice before you can kick up to a higher level.

Ian
 

David M

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Ian G, exactly what I've been trying to say all this time.
Alan, I am not against refinement at all, but we had allowed ourselves to offer a bewildering variety of advice, which Ian is not able to use because of his inexperience in the darkroom. Refinement can only come when the basics are established. I don't care if he begins with the shadows or the midtones or the highlights, as long as he actually begins.
Keith, I have realised that Ian is asking questions that the congenial environment of the screen will answer automatically. "What happens if... ?" The kindly screen tells us immediately. If we don't like it, then CMD-Z and it's forgotten. In the darkroom that would be – adjust the timer or filter, or both, take the paper out of the box and re-close the box securely, put the box back where it belongs (perhaps having cut a new test-strip and replaced the remaining pieces in the box), put the paper in the easel, make the new exposure(s), develop, stop, fix, rinse, put the light back on and make mental adjustments for dry-down. Some people make pencil notes on the back of the paper every time they print anything. The darkroom's CMD-Z is the bin.
Very easy to believe that all those clever people on the forum know the answer. Very easy to believe that there is an answer. Those of us who grew our skills in darkrooms know that here isn't an answer, although we do get much better at guessing with experience. On screen, the whole process, from opening the box to putting on the light again, including the bin, is done for us. And no aching feet. Perhaps that's why I work that way now.
I have to agree that Ian has some beautiful hybrid prints on his website. It must be frustrating to find the darkroom so intractable. It must be even more frustrating to discover that we can't give answers to unanswerable questions, however hard we try.
 

Alan9940

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Beautifully put, Keith. Thank you!

Ian, that looks like a pretty good start to me. As Ian G said, I'd strongly recommended printing some other negatives, and then when you feel like you're getting a grasp on the wet darkroom work, I'd return to this image; I'd like to see some more tonal modulation in those pears creating a more dimension to them. IMO, they look rather flat and 2-dimensional in this print. But, what I'm speaking to here is the refinements that David has mentioned; all to be learned later when you feel comfortably with analog printing.

I've probably told this story before, but it kind of relates to what I'm talking about with the pears... Fred Picker wrote in one of his newsletters that he showed one of his brook/water images to Paul Cap one day and Paul's response was "that water doesn't look wet." Huh? How does someone make water wet in a 2-dimensional print on a sheet of paper? Fred returned to the darkroom and after many hours, most of a 100-sheet box of paper, and various paper developers/additives/etc, he had wet water!

I showed a print at Fred's workshop long ago that was of nothing particularly special--cows in a field, dilapidated barn, clouds with gray tones running from Zone V through Zone VIII, etc. One member of the group said, "I can feel the air in that print!" Exactly the mood I was trying to convey; the subject, in my case, was secondary.

I want to look at your print and feel like I'd like to eat those pears! ;) Again, refinements; which you don't need to worry about now. Keep working and you will get there...
 

David M

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"I can feel the air..." is a great compliment. The person who said it must have been perceptive, too. Especially with LF photography it's easy to be sidetracked into matters of sharpness, shadow detail, special developers and all the rest. All interesting, but not the most important thing.

You may have told the story elsewhere, as it's worth repeating, but not here. Thank you.
 
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